It is surprising to note that Stanbic Bank informed its corporate clients that it would be closing their accounts if they failed to furnish them with a tax clearance certificate (ITF 263). A Stanbic official by the name Nongcebo Ngwenya sent emails to various clients with the following message: “…Please note that we will be closing all accounts without tax clearance and CR2 certificates…” What is a tax clearance certificate? A tax clearance certificate is a document that is issued by the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to a person/company liable to pay tax under any of the Acts administered by ZIMRA. The certificate is issued to a person/company whose tax affairs are up-to-date or has made satisfactory tax compliance arrangements with ZIMRA.

At law, the payer shall withhold 10% of each amount payable to the payee under contract on failure to produce a valid tax clearance certificate. It boggles the mind why Stanbic has threatened its depositors with account closure and denied its clients access to their accounts and crucially to their funds. Several calls to their various branches scattered all over the country confirmed this position. What was more disheartening was the fact that failure to comply to their directive will result in a depositor not being able to at least withdraw their hard earned moola. To say the least this is day light robbery, it maybe their company policy but to restrict depositors access to their funds is absurdity of the highest levels.

Are we missing something or there is more than that meets the eye? There is no doubt that Stanbic is a robust bank. In 2014 Stanbic Bank was awarded the best commercial bank in Zimbabwe in the Banks and Banking Survey. In addition to that, they were also handed the top 5 banks in Zimbabwe award. Clearly, this may be exorcising those clients they deem to be toxic. After the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Dr John Mangudya announced the mooting of the bond notes in May 2016, a chronic liquidity crunch ensued. This resulted in a mass exodus of depositors from the local banks to the international banks.

Stanbic responded by restricting the opening of new accounts. This was to curb cash hoarding that would inevitably affect their liquidity position. It is possible that powers that be at Stanbic decided to go a step further and remain with the top notch corporate accounts that are compliant with the country’s laws and regulations. A call to the RBZ bank licensing and supervision division yielded no results…I was dumbfounded by the response I got from the lady on the other side. I asked if Stanbic’s position was an instruction from the RBZ or their own in house policy, and all I got was a damp squib answer to the effect that I should ask Stanbic, “hello” you are the regulator!!!

On further inquiry, I asked to speak to someone else and everyone was gone for lunch at 1430hrs. On asking who could I email I was further advised that all I could do was to write a letter to the Director Bank Licensing and Supervision, such bureaucracy and red tape.

Anyways in conclusion it seems as if Stanbic wants to retain the crème da crème clients and they have implemented an aggressive Know Your Client (KYC) model. It seems like a solid business case but aren’t banks supposed to be at the forefront of nursing businesses that may be in intensive care or in the doldrums so that they grow together???

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